Archive for February, 2007


Gordon’s leadership price continues to ease

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

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    Could Labour’s “hand-over” not be the foregone conclusion that it appeared?

The chart shows the changing price on Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership over the past seven days. Three things have influenced the markets; the ICM poll a week ago showing how Brown’s Labour 13% behind; the Communicate Research poll yesterday; and the move by Clarke and Milburn to open up a debate within the party.

The danger for Brown backers is that media pressure combined with concern over poll ratings might cause a serious alternative to Brown to come forward.

Everybody says that Brown has widespread support within the parliamentary party – but then the same thing was being said in favour of David Davis during the Tory leadership race in 2005. People might only be declaring they are for him because he look like the potential winner. As soon as that appears to be less of a certainty then support could fall away.

Mike Smithson


Who does Gordon think he is – Michael Howard?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

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    Will the “Britishness” thing help or hinder Brown’s leadership bid?

Watching Gordon Brown launch the latest stage of his of his Britishness agenda on the bulletins last night I could not help but thinking that he is making precisely the same mistakes that Michael Howard made in the run up to the 2005 General Election.

Then it will be recalled that the Tory leader stepped up the rhetoric and dog whistles against groups like immigrants and travellers in an effort to shore up his right flank. At least Howard had some obvious voter targets in mind when he moved onto this territory.

    But what groups of voters is Labour’s would-be leader trying to win over by calling for things like immigrants being forced to carry out community service before being granted British citizenship?

For surely Brown has worked out that the battle-ground at the next general election will be the centre-ground where appearing to be “beastly” to immigrants is likely to turn off voters rather than win support.

For I have observed before here that there are two big groups in the electorate that Labour needs to appeal to if it wants to hold onto power – those Tories who moved over to Blair in 1997 and the Labour supporters who switched to the Lib Dems in 2005.

Whatever you might think of Cameron the new Tory leadership has figured that out and it doesn’t take too much of a reading of the polls to work out that it is amongst these groups that the party is making the most electoral progress. For Brown now to be talking tough on immigrants seems designed to help the Tories to take the centre ground. It is just plain dumb.

And Gordon has not sewn up the Labour leadership completely yet. According to the Guardian this morning “Detailed assessments have been made suggesting between 60 and 90 MPs are committed to Mr Brown, and as many as 60 are opposed to him. This leaves about 200 in the centre willing to look at another candidate if the polls continue to suggest Mr Brown cannot defeat Mr Cameron.

Each day the Brown price in the betting markets seems to ease out a little further. It’s now at 0.28/1. So in just nine days the return on a winning £100 Brown bet has moved from £19 to £28.

Unless there’s a significant turnaround in Labour’s position in the polls during March you can see a panic starting to set in and the notion of finding a leader other than Gordon might just get some traction. Labour feels it owes Brown the leadership – but not at any electoral cost.

Mike Smithson


PBC Party: Change the Date! (And the location)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

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  • Political Betting Book Launch Party
  • Tuesday 17th April – 3pm to 7pm
  • National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place SW1
  • OK, we stuffed up. Apparently the House of Commons won’t allow commercial ventures in
    its hallowed halls – and so launching a book on gambling is right out! So we have decamped to the National Liberal Club. Liberals, it seems, are a lot less fussy.

    We’ve had to put the date back a day, so please revisit your diaries. I will email separately all those who had already booked a place.

    The time is changed slightly but the extension should help. Since the NLC is huge, there will be no limit on numbers but again it will be extremely helpful if those planning to come email me at the earliest possible moment.

    The publishers, Harriman House, are still sharing the event with us and we need to give them names and numbers. The charge is now reduced to £10, which will include drinks and nibbles. Any balance left over will go behind the bar at whichever pub we decamp to after the event, probably St Stephens Tavern, but we can decide nearer the time.

    Please send cheques direct to me at my home address which will be on the email I return to you by way of acknowledging your booking.

    Apologies to everybody who may have been inconvenienced by the unexpected change. It’s been a nuisance but just as well we checked the regulations in time. Apart from the more obvious inconveniences, Guido would never have stopped laughing.

    See you all there, I hope.

    Peter Smith


    PBC outpoints the Brandindex market yet again

    Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

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      Are IG On The Run?

    When IG sportingly created a Politicians’ Popularity market, it doubtless expected to make a little profit from its collaboration with YouGov. The trading is understandably light and one suspects that most of the punting is coming from PB regulars. If so, one has to wonder if IG is making any money at all. This is the fifth week of competition and our fourth success. The other week was a draw.

    Last week’s main recommendation to buy Alan Johnson was right in principle but unless you caught the early price, you will have made a small loss. The two more tentative suggestions to sell Benn and Blair scored big time and the profit for the week was 3.4 points (£34 to a £10 stake).
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    This week I am recommending a further sell of Benn at 90.3. No news is bad news for the Deputy Leader candidate and he has been little seen of late. Hague is also a sell at 95.3 for much the same reason. The man is virtually invisible. It follows that Cameron at 90.0 is a buy, as he hogs the camera in, mostly, favorable circumstances.

    All three bets are to a 1 point stake. Let’s hope the success continues….or maybe not. We don’t want IG to give up, do we? Toodle pip

    Peter the Punter


    Is your MP on the “seats changing hands” list?

    Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

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      Tory lead up to 11% with Communicate Research

    Reproduced above is a snap-shot of the top of the page when you put the latest poll numbers into Martin Baxter’s seat calculator on his excellent Political Calculus site which many MPs in marginal seats are said to be visiting a lot at the moment.

    For the February poll in the Independent from Communicate Research reports a big swing to the Tories. These are the figures compared with the January survey CON 40% (+6): LAB 29% (nc): LD 17% (-4).

    Unlike the other phone pollsters the firm does not seek to ensure a politically balanced sample by asking how people voted last time and then weighting accordingly and this has in recent months has had CR showing the least favourable Tory figures. This is why today’s survey is such a shock.

    Overall in the survey CR found many more respondents who answered “Labour” to the question “Generally speaking do you consider yourself….?“. What’s behind the latest move is a sharp reduction in the proportion of declared Labour voters saying they would be certain to vote.

    The detail shows only 45% of the Labour group saying they would be absolutely certain, compared with 65% for the Tories and 53% for the Lib Dems.

      The political question is whether the continued bad polling news for Labour will have an impact on the leadership. Will it cause further pressure on Blair to go early and will it help or hinder Gordon Brown?

    I have long been of the view that the only thing that can stop the Chancellor’s succession is very poor polling news for his party and him personally. This latest survey will only add to the jitters and might cause more questions over whether Brown is the man to lead the fight back against Cameron.

    The Gordon price in the Labour leadership betting is 0.27/1.

  • If Labour MPs want to get a different picture of what might happen then they should check out the UK Polling report swing calculator. This takes a different mathematical approach and on these latest number reports a Tory majority of 26.
  • PBC Party Change – URGENT. Please note that it is NOT going to be possible to hold the event at the House of Commons as announced on Sunday. An alternative venue is being found and this looks set to be on a different day.
  • Mike Smithson


    Polling analysis: Why don’t Labour voters like Brown?

    Monday, February 26th, 2007

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      Examining the details from last week’s ICM and YouGov polls

    We have had to wait nearly a week for this but these are the details from the poll that has been the talk of Westminster and which has promoted a big change in the Brown price in the Labour leadership betting market.

    The ICM full data is from the survey last Tuesday that showed Labour 13% behind if Gordon Brown is named as leader against Cameron’s Tories and Ming’s Lib Dems.

    The above is a snap-shot and shows how voting preferences changed compared with the main figures when the named leader question was asked.

  • Cameron holds on to 96% of Tory voters and picks up 6% of the Labour ones and 7% of the Lib Dems.
  • Brown only retains 80% of the declared Labour support but picks a big cross-over from the Lib Dems.
  • Ming’s Lib Dems see their total decline to 73% with 11% going to Labour and 6% to the Tories.
  • For me the big question is whether people are switching to the Tories because Brown is named or whether this is simply the Tories being helped when their party is linked with the name of their leader. My guess is that is is mostly the latter.

    The same story is repeated in the detail from YouGov’s poll on Friday when its forced choice question was put.

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    Again Gordon Brown is failing to secure the support of a significant proportion of declared Labour voters.

    Mike Smithson


    Is this the man to take on Gordon, Dave & Ming?

    Monday, February 26th, 2007


      What about the minister who had the guts to resign over Iraq?

    After a weekend which has seen repeated media calls for Brown to face a proper challenge for the leadership his price has eased further on the betting markets. Just a week ago a £100 winning Brown bet would have produced a profit of £19 – today such a wager offers £27.

    But the big question that those betting against the Chancellor have to ask is – if not Gordon then who? We have seen one potential challenger after another fall by the wayside and it is hard to make a case for anybody within the cabinet. What about looking wider afield?

    Four years ago three senior ministers resigned over Iraq: one, Robin Cook is sadly no longer with us; the second Claire Short is no longer with the Labour party; while the third, John Denham, remains as a Labour MP and has been a regular critic of the Blair administration as chair of the Home Affairs committee.

      Given the way that Iraq and its aftermath continue to overshadow Labour could Denham – who had the courage of his convictions in 2003 – be the man who could mount a plausible challenge?

    For as well as his stand on Iraq Denham is one of the dwindling band of Labour MPs to represent a seat in southern England – Southampton Itchen which he took off the Tories at the 1992 general election.

    One person who has been talking up Denham’s strengths is the influential Labour blogger, Paul Linford. Last week he noted “Denham is a sensible leftie who in most respects holds perfectly mainstream Labour Party views, notably on the importance of tackling inequality. He also, of course, has relevant recent high-level ministerial experience as a minister in the Home Office. John Denham is a man of high principle who in my opinion would make an admirable Prime Minister.”

    This BBC interview from last September shows what an effective communicator he is. I think he is quite impressive with an approach that is very much in tune with the moment.

    What strikes me is that a contender who had resigned his post over Iraq is in a completely different category from almost anybody else. If the party wants to draw a line under that unhappy episode then choosing someone who took such a stand is the way to do it.

      A Denham victory would leave David Cameron as the only one of the three main party leaders to have voted for the war and help Labour counter the Lib Dem’s USP on the issue.

    The more I have thought about it the more logical a Denham bid appears and over the weekend I did put £6 on Denham at average odds of more than 320/1.There’s been no hint from Denham that he is even interested and I am still maintaining my betting position on Gordon. But things can happen.

    Mike Smithson


    Hold the date – Monday April 16th

    Sunday, February 25th, 2007

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  • Political Betting Book Launch Party
  • Monday 16th April – 4pm to 6pm
  • The Strangers Restaurant, House of Commons
  • And afterwards in St Stephens Tavern, Westminster
  • In partnership with Politico’s Book Shop, is happy to announce the date and venue, as above, of its annual party which this year will be combined with the launch of Mike’s book, political punter.JPGThe Political Punter, which is being published by Harriman House.

    The venue is made possible by the sponsorship of our MP contributors, John Hemming (LD), Stewart Jackson (CON) and Nick Palmer (LAB). Our thanks to them.

    Politicos will, at its own cost, be inviting along a number of journalists for the launch, so if you attend you not only get the chance to insult personally many of those you have been insulting all year on the site, but you will also be able to air your views to the denizens of the press. How can you miss this opportunity?

    No formal arrangements have been made for drinks afterwards but we expect a fair few of us will shuffle across to St Stephens Tavern for the evening. Naturally anybody who cannot make the launch itself will be very welcome to catch up with us there.

    Afternoon refreshments will be served at the launch and to cover the cost of this we are charging £13.50 per head. There will be no other charge. I need to firm up on numbers as soon as possible and provide names to The House, so I must ask all those who intend to come for a definite commitment by Friday 6th April at the latest – if you can do so sooner, it will be a big help to me. Please email your confirmations to me at

    PB has a small budget to contribute towards wine at the launch and if there is any left over, we’ll stick it behind the bar at the pub. Naturally if anybody feels moved to contribute personally to the alcoholic side of things, we will be very grateful for any offerings.

    I look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible. Politico’s reckon they will bring along at least 25. I’d like to think PB can top that. Bust a gut to get there; it should be worth it.

    Peter Smith (aka Peter the Punter)